Compare airline credit cards | finder.com

Compare airline credit cards

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Enjoy strong rewards on flights.

There’s an airline credit card out there for every type of traveler. To help you determine which card is right for you, we assembled our top picks.

Our pick for travel rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
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Compare airline credit cards

Many airlines offer cobranded credit cards with airline-specific perks. If you fly with different carriers, you might like a general travel card instead.

Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual Fee
40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months plus 20,000 miles after spending $8,000 in the first 6 months
2x miles at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 20,000 miles after spending $8,000 in the first 6 months.
30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
10,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 3 months
2x miles at US restaurants and on purchases made directly with Delta and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & Fees
40,000 bonus LifeMiles after first card use
3x miles on Avianca purchases, 2x miles at gas stations and grocery stores and 1x miles on all other purchases. Plus 15% discount on purchases of miles with Multiply Your Miles
$149
40,000 bonus LifeMiles after first card use
20,000 bonus LifeMiles after first card use
2x miles on Avianca purchases, 1x miles on all other purchases. Plus a 15% discount on purchases of miles with Multiply Your Miles
$59
20,000 bonus LifeMiles after first card use

Compare up to 4 providers

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Best airline credit cards

Our list starts with a general travel card and is followed by cobranded products for top US airlines. Check out the bottom of the guide for more cards from other airlines.

A quick look at the best airline credit cards

Best for airline rewards and transferable airline points: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Amex is consistently one of the best options for flight rewards. Though it comes with a $550 annual fee, you’ll earn stellar points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel.

Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards

You can transfer points to select airline and hotel partners with Amex’s Membership Rewards and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards.

Amex has an edge in international airline partners, which makes it the favorite in our book. But look at the lists of partners for yourself and see what works for you. Chase lets you transfer points to Southwest and World of Hyatt, two high-value options that Amex doesn’t work with.

Best for Delta: Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

This card is tailored to the Delta loyalist. We estimate travel benefits are worth over $2,000 a year. If you want a taste of the Delta high life without paying a premium annual fee, consider the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.

Redeem Delta SkyMiles for best value

Best for United: United℠ Explorer Card

The United℠ Explorer Card offers more bang for your buck versus other mid-tier airline cards. Besides United perks — which include two United Club one-time passes each card year — you’ll also get a credit for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application every four years.
Redeem United Airlines miles for best value

Best for American Airlines: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

The premium, $450-a-year American Airlines credit card is arguably less attractive than the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express. But the airline’s $99-a-year product is impressive, offering solid rewards on American Airlines purchases and everyday spending. Plus, you’ll find solid airline-specific perks like preferred boarding.

How to redeem American Airlines miles

Best for Southwest: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

This is the highest-priced Southwest credit card, but you can offset part of the annual fee with the yearly $75 travel credit on most Southwest purchases. You can also find great value from the Upgraded Boarding reimbursements and annual point bonus.
Redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards for the best valueBack to top

Methodology

  • Best for airline points and transferable airline points. We looked for the card that offers the highest rewards rate on flight purchases. Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards are two of the best rewards programs, and we gave the edge to the former because of its wider array of valuable airline partners.
  • Best for Delta. We picked the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express because it adds much more value on top of lower-tier Delta cards versus other premium airline cards. One key factor was the annual companion certificate, which many competing cards don’t offer.
  • Best for United. While the airline’s premium card can easily be worth its annual fee, we think the mid-tier option is superior. The latter offers a good balance of benefits and value you won’t find with mid-tier cards from other airlines. And United’s premium card doesn’t offer an annual companion pass like you’ll find with Delta’s.
  • Best for American Airlines. Like with our choice for United, we picked the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® because we believe it offers the most value for its price. The airline’s premium card can be valuable, but it doesn’t offer a star benefit on par with that of the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express.
  • Best for Southwest. We picked the Southwest card with the most overall value. By our calculations, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card can pay for itself if you leverage its travel credits and Upgraded Boarding reimbursements.

Credit cards from your favorite airlines

How to choose an airline credit card

  1. Decide if you want a general or cobranded card.
    A general card can be effective if you fly with different airlines. Depending on the provider, you may be able to transfer your points or miles to partner airlines. This gives you a lot of flexibility you wouldn’t get with a cobranded card.

    If you’re loyal to a certain airline, you might like a cobranded card. You probably shouldn’t get the card for its rewards, as you’ll often find stronger points or miles from a general card. But the cobranded product might offer airline-specific perks such as priority boarding, free checked baggage and access to the airline’s lounges.

  2. Think about how much you want to pay.
    Airline credit cards usually fall into three general price points: $0, $99 or $450 a year.

    A no-annual-fee cobranded card usually offers limited airline perks — for example, savings on inflight purchases. The mid-tier card typically offers a few more benefits, such as priority boarding and checked baggage. The $450-a-year card may offer airport-lounge access, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit or a companion pass.

    If you can forego airline benefits, you might like a general travel card with no annual fee. You’ll find several options with great rewards.

  3. Apply for the card.
    You’ll need information like your full name, contact details, Social Security number, date of birth, gross annual income and employment information.
  4. Wait for your card.
    Many travel-card providers will give you a decision on your application immediately. If a provider needs to review your application manually, it may take a few days to a few weeks to hear back.

    If you’re approved, look for your card in the mail within seven to 10 days.

Bottom line

If you want to earn flexible points or miles on flights, consider a general travel credit card. If you’re loyal to a certain airline, you might like a cobranded card.

Not sure if an airline card is right for you? Check out our guide to travel credit cards for more options.

Frequently asked questions

Pictures: Getty Images

Disclaimer

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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